Dear old Larry Summers has come over all Zero Bound constipated, fretting that the natural, real rate of interest has somehow become fixed down there at negative 2%-3% where conventional policy (if you can still remember of what that used to consist) cannot get at it – unless we blow serial bubbles, that is, these episodes in mass folly and gross wastefulness now being raised to the level of such perverse desiderata of which Krugman’s only partly-facetious call for a war on Mars forms an infamous example. In fact, this entire notion is another piece of nonsense to spring from the one of Keynes’ least cogent ramblings, the notoriously insupportable notion of ’Liquidity Preference’ – a logical patch fixed over the lacunae in his reasoning when, having insisted that saving must always equal investment, all he could think of to determine the rate of interest was our collective desire to hold money for its own sake. From such intellectually bastard seed soon sprang, fully-armed like Minerva from the head of our economic Jove, the even worse confusion of the ‘Liquidity Trap.’
There are many reasons why the poor are 'poor' or why the middle-class is deteriorating into a state of being 'poor' but as this first-person account of the self-defeating feedback loops of poverty's trap harrowingly suggests, escaping that social strata (as we noted previously) is becoming ever more difficult. Of course, a George Carlin noted previously, "the only true American value is... buying things," which leaves the 'poor' increasingly losing hope. "Rest is a luxury for the rich," the author notes, "planning is not in the mix," as she explains why poverty has forced her to "make terrible decisions."
The White House has released their (lengthy) fact sheet...
"During the six-month initial phase, the P5+1 will negotiate the contours of a comprehensive solution... Over the next six months, we will determine whether there is a solution that gives us sufficient confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful. If Iran cannot address our concerns, we are prepared to increase sanctions and pressure.
Suspend certain sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran’s auto sector, and Iran’s petrochemical exports, potentially providing Iran approximately $1.5 billion in revenue
Israelis, Saudis, and Republicans are already questioning the decision...
If public pensions don't delay and start plugging their funding holes now, they will need to contribute just under $200 billion per year over the next 30 years, amounting to 1.2% of GDP and 8.8% of state and local tax revenues. If funds wait a decade, the impact per year explodes to $325 billion over 30 years and will "cost" 1.2% of GDP and 12.2% of tax revenues. But the most likely, and worst case scenario, is if pension funds do nothing at all, "let the machine run its course", then the economic damage is unquantifiable as low asset returns inevitably cause lower income through benefits after assets are fully depleted.
With all eyes glued to the anniversary of the assassination of JFK 50 years ago, we thought it worth noting that the death of another important American figure - the USDollar - began exactly 100 years ago. Today in 1910 Sen. Aldrich, 1 yr after introducing an amendment to establish an income tax, convened the first secret meeting at Jekyll Island.
Many have wondered why one of the greatest boxers of our generation, Philippines' Manny Pacquiao, has not retired gracefully into hero-dom following his loss to Marquez late last year. For a fighter - it could be pride, ego, or, sadly, lack of funds. In Pacquiao's case it is none of the above, we suspect as a politician, the diminutive boxer has realized the wealth effect-creating impact of his victories of the nation - which at no other time in history needs something positive to reflect on. While in the US, investors have POMO to almost guarantee an up-day in stocks, in the Philippines, stocks rise 73% of the time after a Pacquiao win (compared to 52% average) and rise a stunning 0.5% (against a 0.04% average). Pacquiao is 6-1 on to win against Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios on Saturday (86% likely to win); is there a Philippines ETF?
A new opportunity to play "What's wrong with this picture" arose recently, with Larry Summers’ recent speech at the IMF and Paul Krugman’s follow-up blog. The two economists’ messages are slightly different, but combining them into one fictional character we shall call SK, their comments can be summed up "...essentially, we need to manufacture bubbles to achieve full employment equilibrium." With this new line of reasoning, SK have completely outdone themselves, but not in a good way. Think Jamie Dimon’s infamous “that’s why I’m richer than you” quip. Or, Bill Dudley’s memorable “but the price of iPads is falling” excuse for increases in basic living costs. Dimon and Dudley managed to encapsulate in single sentences much of what’s wrong with their institutions. Yet, they showed baffling ignorance of faults that are clear to the rest of us.
Late in the life of every financial bubble, when things have gotten so out of hand that the old ways of judging value or ethics or whatever can no longer be honestly applied, a new idea emerges that, if true, would let the bubble keep inflating forever. During the tech bubble of the late 1990s it was the “infinite Internet.” During the housing bubble the rationalization for the soaring value of inert lumps of wood and Formica was a model of circular logic: Home prices would keep going up because “home prices always go up.” Now the current bubble – call it the Money Bubble or the sovereign debt bubble or the fiat currency bubble, they all fit – has finally reached the point where no one operating within a historical or commonsensical framework can accept its validity, and so for it to continue a new lens is needed. And right on schedule, here it comes: Governments with printing presses can create as much currency as they want and use it to hold down interest rates for as long as they want. So financial crises are now voluntary. The illusion of government omnipotence is no crazier than the infinite Internet or home prices always going up, but it is crazy.
While the world of mainstream media stock pundits would like investors to believe that there is a wall of money on the sidelines waiting anxiously to go all-in on stocks (bear in mind there's a seller for every buyer and where does the cash on the sidelines go when it is handed over to the seller in return for his stock?), as none other than Charles Schwab notes in this brief Bloomberg TV clip, "investors are less rattled" than most believe, "and have stayed invested" in large part. "There hasn't been a wholesale movement away from stocks," he goes on, busting myths asunder, adding that "investors want to see market-driven conditions, not Fed manipulated ones."
The cheapest plan now has a deductible of $6350! Before it was $150. Employees making $9 to $10/hr, have to pay $30/wk and have a $6350 deductible!!! What!!!! They can't afford that to be sure. Obamacare will kill their propensity to seek medical care. More money for less care? How does that help them? Here is the craziest part. Employees who qualify for mediCAL (the California version of Medicare), which is most of my employees, will automatically be enrolled in the Federal SNAP program. They cannot opt out. They cannot decline. They will be automatically enrolled in the Federal food stamp program based upon their level of Obamacare qualification. Remember, these people work full time, living in a small town in California. They are not seeking assistance. It all seems like a joke. How can this be the new system? Pelosi, pass the bill to find out what's in it? Surprise! You've annihilated the working class.
At one point during the evening, when pressed about whether his Quantitative Easing program was good for Wall Street at the expense of Main Street, Ben Bernanke flat out denied it, saying that such a premise is "simply not true". He defended his printing $85 billion per month, suggesting that fixing interest rates at zero is beneficial for society because, among other things, it allows people to 'buy cars'. I saw these words coming out of his mouth and thought to myself, "Is this guy f'ing serious?" Cars. Wow. As if going into debt to purchase a rapidly depreciating consumer item is somehow a victory for the people.
While operating earnings are widely discussed by analysts and the general media; there are many problems with the way in which these earnings are derived due to one time charges, inclusion/exclusion of material events, and outright manipulation to "beat earnings." Therefore, from a historical valuation perspective, reported earnings are much more relevant in determining market over/under valuation levels. In this regard reported earnings increased from $24.87 to $25.04, a 0.6% increase, per share in the third quarter. The ongoing deterioration in earnings is something worth watching closely. The recent improvement in the economic reports is likely more ephemeral due to a very sluggish start of the year that has led to a "restocking" cycle. This puts overly optimistic earnings estimates in jeopardy of be lowered further in the coming months ahead as stock buybacks slow and corporate cost cutting becomes less effective.
The ECB tried to "do whatever it takes" this morning by floating QE rumors (Constancio - QE is a possibility but not discussed in any detail) with the endgame being a weaker EUR (since a stronger EUR has crushed Eurozone corporate earnings). But, the Fed was having none of that, and as POMO started it dominated the ECB's "weak" kung-fu, ramping stocks and EURUSD to new highs... as we chronicled on Twitter... banging EURJPY (the all-important carry driver of all thinsg risk) to new 4-year highs).
Two-and-a-half years ago, none other than the Fed's Bill Dudley explained why the inflating price of food was nothing to worry about because iPads were dropping in price (to which an audience member, rightly, exclaimed - "I can't eat an iPad"). Fast forward to today, and it seems, based on the highly scientific chart below, that the growth of food stamps (the benefit provided to members of our society that need caramel macchiatos or liquor - oh and food) correlates uncomfortably closely with the demand for iPads. Perhaps, Bill Dudley was right after all - we can eat our iPads...
Back in August, we joked that in the Tesla press-release the one most often used word was Non-GAAP (43 times). Conveniently, we provided a word cloud of the company's Q2 release for the visual learners to grasp just this. That TESLA's earnings were an epic non-GAAP adjustment joke was only further cemented by the fact that the company itself provided a bridge between its GAAP and Non-GAAP earnings. Now, the euphoria is over and the story is different, as not only has the company's self-reported and erroneous record of making the safest car in the world gone up in flames, but the momentum appears terminally broken and following today's most recent 11% drop, TSLA stock could soon be headed for double digit territory again. More importantly, however, the end of the momentum story means that those who care about such anachronisms as fundamentals can once again look beneath the hood of TSLA to get the true story of what is really going. There, with the help of Bloomberg's forensic accounting sleuth Jonathan Weil one uncovers nothing but cockroaches.